I was in ratty gym shorts for my first yoga class. Everyone else was in perfectly-fitting spandex yoga pants.
I remember walking into that heated room feeling so out of place that I almost walked out.
You see, at the time, I wasn't into the whole yoga scene... At all.
To me, yoga wasn't a "real workout." And if I was going to give up 60 minutes of my day, I wanted to make sure my efforts would be physically reflected, and I didn't think yoga could do that.
But after shattering heartache, a move to a new city—now alone—and an open heart, I wound up in my first hot yoga class... In those ratty gym shorts.
I was hoping for a healed heart, some mental relief (affirmations, meditation, and journaling weren't cutting it), and the ability to breathe without feeling like my heart was being crushed.
Today, a little more than a year since my first class, I got what I was hoping for and more: a healed heart, a calm mind, more self-compassion, and a better sense of my self.
And something I never imaged happening happened: I fell in love with yoga. So much so that I became a registered yoga teacher and started teaching.
Being someone who would have never considered taking a yoga class if I wasn't in such need of heart healing, here are five things every beginner should remember about yoga that I found helpful.
Your outfit. How deep you can go into a pose (or if you can't get into a pose). Your "muffin top" over your spandex. The cellulite on your thighs... No one really cares. They're too concerned about themselves and their own practice. Push past your fears. Take the class and allow yourself to focus on what really matters: your breath, your intention, and your connection with yourself. You have nothing to be afraid of.
If you came with the purpose of opening your heart, you will. You may even discover that your heart can open up more than you ever thought it could. This happens through the connection of breath and movement. Here, you slow down and learn to practice more self-kindness. And once you've practiced long enough, you'll discover that your newfound sense of calmness and kindness radiates from the inside out and—as cheesy as it may sound—makes the world a better place.
You don't need to be in full-on headstands or splits to be a yogi. As one of my teachers always said: As long as you're in the room—breathing—you are doing yoga. So remember: Your practice is your practice. There's no need or point in comparing yourself to anyone in the room. Yoga is about your connection with yourself and your breath.
Whether you have a pear, apple, or hourglass shape, or you're slender or muscular—it doesn't matter. Yoga is for all body types. You don't need to look a certain way to practice yoga. Your body is your vehicle for movement and to live your life. In other words, your body is the most beautiful and valuable instrument you have. Yoga will allow you to see this. Nourish it and move it with love.
We all have our good days and bad days and in-between days. And as human beings, we feel differently—physically and emotionally—each and every day. If you can't do something in one class that you did in another class, understand that's totally normal. Don't beat yourself up about it. Observe—instead of judge—what you think is going on: It could be as simple as you need more sleep. Use that information to make the best decisions for where you are, with what you have, with what you know right now.
Have fun with it. When you go in to yoga with these five things in mind, you can't have a bad practice.